I came across an article today in the Irish Times. It was about how PhD graduates apply to non-academic jobs as if they're applying to academic jobs. Interestingly, that's exactly what my careers adviser said when she read my CV and cover letters. You can't expect your non-academic employers to care about all the amazing research you did.
1) Cut down your CV. Take out your research topics, project titles, laboratory methods, publications, abstracts, presentations and references. I was a bit reluctant to do this: isn't the whole point that I've done all this sciency stuff? Won't it make people more likely to hire me? Apparently not. Apparently employers take one look at a 3-page CV and chuck it in the bin.
2) Put in a list of Key Skills Developed. You know those things that you do during your PhD and kind of take for granted and never think twice about (because they don't really have any direct effect on whether or not you get published?) Here are some examples.
- Writing and editing skills (papers, posters, abstracts, websites, reports, thesis, educational content)
- Computer skills (statistics software, data analysis, programming)
- Teaching and training experience (lectures, tutorials, problem-based learning)
- Design and supervision of (undergraduate) projects
- Clear and effective communication skills (poster presentations, talks)
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Time management and organisation skills
- Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
3) Apply directly to companies you might be interested in working for. Don't wait for a vacancy or graduate program to be advertised, go ahead and send them an email. Say you're a PhD graduate interested in working for their company, CV and cover letter attached. You would be willing to consider any suitable position. get them to make you an offer. The idea is to get your foot in the door, and after some time, after they've seen what you can do, you can start working your way up. Interestingly, a good friend of mine told me she was planning to do this way before I'd heard of it from careers.
She also provided me with at list of pharma companies in Ireland, gave me a few more tips on my cover letter (talk less about yourself and more about the company) and told me to just keep at it, and to come back or email if I had any questions.
All in all, I thought it was more a lot more useful than I expected and ran home to put in a 'Key Skills Developed' section right away.